8.30.2014

Ofelia Dumas Lachtman's autograph (A Shell for Angela)





Better known for her ten young adult novels and numerous, award winning, bilingual picture books (in particular her Pepita series), Ofelia Dumas Lachtman published her first and so far only novel for adults, A Shell for Angela, in 1995, at an age (seventy-five) when most writers, I can only presume, might be contemplating retirement rather than taking a new challenge head-on and the manifold risks involved writing in a brand new realm like literary fiction. But  Lachtman, born July 9th, 1919, and who still resides in her native Los Angeles, seems to have managed just fine.  Mother of two, Lachtman worked as a stenographer during WWII.




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Mona Simpson's autograph, Off Keck Road







1st printing of Vintage Contemporaries ed., 2001




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8.24.2014

Ajay Sahgal's autograph (Pool)




Ajay Sahgal dedicated his first and, so far, only novel, Pool (1994), to contemporary literature's longtime dastardly Prince of Nihilism and Narcissism (or, N&N), Bret Ellis.  Ellis' kindred twin of N&N, Jay McInerney (why yes, I do believe I'm name-dropping), whose longtime literary niche, like Ellis', has drifted for redundant decades in the shallows of N&N, wrote the middle blurb for the back cover of Pool, teasingly intimating that Ajay Sahgal was a "mad scientist" whose novel Pool was "a scary experiment" that someone just had to do.  I wish Ajay Sahgal hadn't done it, write Pool, though I'll admit I must agree with McInerney regarding his "scary" assertion about Pool, insofar as it was suggestive of Ajay Sahgal's flat prose that was so flat and, frankly, so foul, it scared me considering there once existed a publisher deluded and/or pompous enough to believe the novel was fit for publication.
I suppose I get that Pool was deemed cool enough to publish, especially back in the early Nineties when practically every piece of crap, no matter how painfully average, banal, or glossy and cool its artistic book cover -- not to mention how derivative it was -- got galleys galore sent out left and right like so many unsavory Dominos Pizzas, so why wouldn't this forgettable (pedestrian at best) supposed satire of The Biz, as seen through the N&N eyes (presumably reflected on the book cover) of one of Young Hollywood's hottest models and elite leading men, Emery Roberts, find a, say, little brown Atlantic house to call home too?  Scarier, and more absurd, was the helium hyperbole-of-Hindenburg-proportions printed about Pool on Pool's front flyleaf: "Think Day of the Locust for Generation X". Uh, don't you think the estate of Nathanael West could've sued over such asinine and ludicrous bombast as that?  I do.  How about instead, "Think Day of the Dumb Tweet for Millennials".  For this Pool, predictably, is not deep.



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8.10.2014

A Child's Garden of Verses for the Revolution by William Eastlake



Yesterday, I finally bit on a first printing of poetry that'd been sitting on one of my local bookshop shelves for at least the last couple years, A Child's Garden of Verses for the Revolution (1970) by William Eastlake.  The book is prose poetry intermingled with narrative vignettes that are like a hybrid of short stories and social commentary blended in such a manner that they're practically rants. But lyrical, creative -- not shrill -- rants.  And though particular to their time, still resonates in our time today.  Here's an untitled sampling:

1st printing, Grove Press
"We will cut
The bad guys off
At the pass,
But this will not be
A revolution in which
We shoot off the congressmen's heads.
They must have their heads on tight
In order to look back and see the
Damage they have done.
Look!
Killed off our youth in Vietnam,
Our blacks in Chicago,
Spent all our money
To accomplish their great deeds.
They also spent forty billion,
Burned alive three astronauts
To bring back a couple of
Rocks from the moon,
While Death walked the ghetto
Rode the Indian reservation,
At the pass.
They must have their heads on tight
In order to look back and see the damage they have done."


William Eastlake (1917-1997) was a novelist, war correspondent, ranch hand, writer-in-residence, lecturer, cattle puncher, honorary doctorate recipient, short story writer and reviewer.  His work is well worth discovering for the first time, or rediscovering time and again.

8.03.2014

Hannah Holborn's autograph (Fierce: Stories and a Novella)



Hannah Holborn wowed me the first time I read her fiction.  Her short story, "Without Strings," included in the superb 2008 anthology, Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs, edited by the novelist Suzanne Kamata, blew me away it hit so close to home.

It was so painfully raw and honest, I was convinced that Holborn had to have had her own child with special needs in order to have written such a story so real, so true.  In the story, Alice is sharing with her mother the devastating news of her baby daughter's diagnosis: Angelman's.  Parents of typical children without chromosomal abnormalities cannot imagine* how crushing it is upon hearing the news that their child has a severely debilitating developmental disorder, and yet Hannah Holborn, who is not the parent of a special needs child, not only imagined it but nailed it.  After Alice receives little sympathy from her look-on-the-"upside"-of-life-mother and her mother's latest beau (unless the latest beau's "boo-hoo" can be construed as signifying genuine sympathy), she walks home and broods:

"...my neighbors slept with confidence inside their heavily mortgaged homes knowing that their children would be icons of socially conscious fashion, win athletic awards, read before kindergarten, earn honors, be beautiful or handsome or both.  When grown they would graduate with multiple degrees and then move to the United States because the wages are higher. They would marry well and buy nicer homes than these. They would make their parents proud.

They would avoid my daughter like the plague."

Knocks the wind out of you, a passage like that.

When Fierce arrived late in 2008 (in Canada only; it was released in the States in 2009), Hannah, who had read my positive review of Love You to Pieces and later contacted me through a social media website devoted to bibliophiles to say thanks, she was kind enough -- and quite generous too -- to send me, all the way from Canada, an autographed copy of her first book of fiction.  I think it's safe to say I prize her signature and inscription more than others I've collected over the years.  And autographed copy or not, Fierce is a stellar collection of short stories and one novella that sensitive readers and reviewers will savor, as her stories have that knack of staying with you as only the most powerful and impacting fictions can and do.




*I can imagine only because I was the parent of a special needs child (Down syndrome) for fifteen-plus years (August 11, 1998 to December 27, 2013).



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8.01.2014

Lawrence Ferlinghetti's autograph (Routines)



Nothing's routine about

Poet,
Painter
(see below),
Publisher
(ever heard a Howl?),

Indie bookstore owner,

Dramatist
(see The Center for Death
or read it in Routines
before you die sometime),
Patron saint of poets dead & alive,
Idea Dude,
Writer,

Lawrence Ferlinghetti --

Nothing's routine, that is, except
maybe this post about him; or,
this post that's not really about him at all, but his autograph.  Black felt ink that bled through the next two pages, on New Directions paper.




See, I have it.  And you probably don't!  Ha.  Look at that long slender "f" of ferlinghe#i.  Like a strand of escaped spaghetti!

But maybe you have one of his paintings?

Lucky you.


Lyric Escape by Lawrence Ferlinghetti